The Budget was announced on February 1st and has led to disillusionment about the scarcity of funds allocated to the MGNREGA. Amid rampant unemployment and decline in farm income, can such a decision be negated?
Kavya Thomas | The New Leam
The Interim Budget was announced on February 1 and has led to controversy among the various sectors about a problematic distribution of funds. One such arena where it is being asserted that more funds could have been allocated and what has been given so far is insufficient is the government’s flagship programme that is meant to address rural poverty called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
It has been estimated that in order to be able to function properly, the MGNREGA would require an annual budgetary allowance of Rs 88,000 crore for the year 2019-2020. This amount is Rs 20,000 crore lesser than the Rs 60,000 crore assigned for it in the interim budget.
It is estimated that any budget that is less than 88,000 crore and will be insufficient to fulfill the need for paying the adequate wages and demand for work. The unpaid dues of the wage labourers have already raised to Rs 7,568 crore and the amount must be urgently paid. The amount will increase many fold after the end of this financial year given the miserly budget that has been allocated by the centre. This also implies the fact that even before the budget starts, the program will only be left with a budget of Rs 52,000 crore. The budget has to be drastically enhanced for the MGNREGA if the government wants to pay the wage labourers their due and ensure that it is able to live up to the expectations.
The low finances that have been allocated for the MGNREGA means that the program will not be able to work efficiently and will also cause the pending dues to enhance several times. We should remember that when the Budget was presented in February 2018, there was an initial allocation of Rs 55,00 crore which was exhausted by January 2019.
Due to the pressure by MGNREGA workers and several rights groups, an additional budget was allocated to 6,084 crore but it is not sure whether this sum has been given to the states yet. Yet again, as the Budget for this year has been allocated we are seeing that an unequal budget has been allocated for MGNREGA demonstrating the absence of commitment and will by the nation-state to allow the MGREGA to work well.
We are experiencing a time when there is large scale rural distress and the agrarian countryside is disillusioned by the chain of poverty and unemployment in the nation. It is ironic that in spite of the problems that we are facing all over the nation in the context of unemployment and declining farm incomes, the decision made by the central government as far as allocating the budget for a scheme like MGNREGA points to the lack of understanding between the people and the nation-state as far as welfare schemes are concerned.